No, I’m not on a quick jaunt to Gettysburg. This statue of General Gouverneur Warren should not be confused with this one.
I took these photos right here in Brooklyn. That they are a bit hard to make out is part of my point. Yesterday I left work and hopped on the subway to check out a few items at the Central Library. I had exited the subway and was walking up the hill when I came across the Savior of Little Round Top. As dusk was setting in I took a few quick snaps on my cell phone camera before heading off to the library and eventually a slice of pizza.
No one loves living in New York City more than I do. That said, I often felt vaguely resentful about not being closer to our Civil War battlefields. I have always know of course about New York City’s role in the conflict, but felt far removed from the war because getting to Shiloh, Fredericksburg, Antietam, and elsewhere is a challenge. My epiphany came about six months ago when I realized I could have “my” Civil War within the five boroughs I call home.
One cannot understand the American Civil War without understanding the battles and battlefields. Walking Pickett’s Charge I learned things from the undulations of the terrain that I could not have gotten from any book; standing on the bluff above Burnside Bridge I finally understood why that Union general was so long in getting his men across the Antietam. I’ll continue to read about the campaigns and to visit the battlefields and walk in the footsteps of the courageous men who gave us our history.
Still, there is more to the war than left obliques.
It was early last fall after a trip to Green-Wood Cemetery with my father-in-law that the lightbulb went off and I realized just how much Civil War history is around me on a daily basis. It’s evident in statuary like the one dedicated to Warren, in sites like Cooper Union where Lincoln gave his speech, and even in the names of our subway stations (Grand Army Plaza). Not only that, we are blessed here with world-renowned historical societies, libraries, and museums that contain unique collections of material—material that might be used by yours truly to find his niche in this whole thing. Suddenly the war didn’t seem so far away anymore. And that’s when the resentment went away.
Just a little story I thought I’d share.